Take the fear out of finance

Avoid and empty purse and look to your finances.
Avoid and empty purse and look to your finances.

With Halloween just around the corner, the time is right to exorcise any spooky goings on from your finances.

There are all kinds of money monsters lurking out there, from ghost insurers to account vampires waiting to drain money from your hard-earned pot of cash...

Zombie current accounts

Perhaps you have money stuck in a long-forgotten zombie savings account that’s simply plodding along, barely making any interest after a bonus rate has come to an end.

If that’s the case, it’s time to shine a light on what else is on the market - and switch to a better savings deal.

Ghost brokers

The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which resolves consumers’ complaints about financial firms, has some cautionary tales to prevent people falling into the clutches of financial fiends.

It says ghostly sightings can sometimes crop up when it comes to insurance problems.

Some people may find their insurance policy mysteriously vanishing — as their policy was taken out through a “ghost broker”.

This is a form of insurance fraud and can happen when genuine policies are bought from legitimate companies using false information, which is doctored before being sold on to a consumer.

Fake policies can also be used, bearing the logo of a legitimate insurance company.

Often, the unsuspecting customer only finds out they’ve been a victim when they go on to make an insurance claim or are stopped by the police for driving uninsured.

If you suspect you may have bought a fraudulent insurance policy, check to see if it is listed on the Motor Insurers’ Bureau’s Motor Insurance Database, which records the policy details of all vehicles insured in the UK.

Even if your vehicle is listed on the database, it may be worth contacting your insurer to make sure that your policy is legitimate.

Frankenstein cars

Other nightmares for motorists can arise when people discover they have bought a “Frankenstein” car, chopped together from different vehicles. This can also make insurance policies invalid.

Details of a vehicle’s history should be disclosed when you buy it. If you think something was hidden from you, there are consumer protection regulations that may help.

Ghost vehicles

Insurers can also be the target of ghoulish happenings.

The ombudsman service sometimes hears from businesses turning down insurance claims that have been found to involve a “ghost vehicle” - a car that doesn’t really exist.

In cases such as this, falsified paperwork has been used to register a policy, with the intention of making a fraudulent claim. This is a serious issue and one where insurers are entitled to take action.

Account vampires

Meanwhile, beware vampires looking to suck your account dry.

Often, when this happens unexpectedly, it is due to fraud.

Problems can sometimes start when people are asked to hand over a card to start or cover a tab, and the card is then misused - so always be vigilant and keep your card and details safe.

As well as the more traditional complaints about fraud seen by the ombudsman, fraudsters are also thought to target people as a result of the pension freedoms which came into force in April, giving people aged 55 and over more flexible access to their cash.

Scams often start off with an unexpected email, call or text offering pension advice, so beware of contact from strangers.

Mysterious “deaths”

In other mysterious happenings, the financial ombudsman says it’s surprising how often businesses tell customers they thought they had died.

If incorrect status information is recorded by a business, the ombudsman would expect it to act quickly to correct the mistake.

Houses of horror

The service also hears from people whose homes have turned into houses of horror.

This could be due to flooding and water damage or structural issues.

Ben Stoker, a spokesman for the ombudsman service, says: “Issues affecting your home are always distressing and we would expect insurers to deal with claims efficiently and with empathy.”

If you have suffered a horror with a financial firm and want to talk it through with someone, the Financial Ombudsman Service is available at www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk or 0800 023 4567.